The amount of success that we can achieve on an individual level is limited compared to the one we can achieve with others. To achieve this greater level of success, one needs to learn how to get others to cooperate with you. Having the ability to bring together a group of people to work on a vision requires leadership.
Good leadership comprises several must-have ingredients that come together to form a fantastic buffet that everyone involved enjoys. A team that is under this kind of leadership evidence it through the way they perform. When you study a military unit or a high functioning department in an organization, you will see that the regular practice of the ingredients in leadership drives the team to perform using high standards and reach the higher levels of success that we talked about earlier.
One needs to demonstrate excellent leadership to propel yourself to higher levels of success. In this blog, I will write about what I think is the first ingredient in such leadership.
The first and foremost ingredient in outstanding leadership is this: to put yourself in other’s shoes. It is the application of the golden rule.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to see the absence of this principle.
Remember when you watched an advertisement about a type of medication for some form of discomfort that did not matter to you. How did you react to that advertisement? Did it move you in any way? Did you take part in the call to action that the ad called for? Do you remember walking away from the screen to use the washroom or getting something to eat or drink?
Consider another occasion where a product, say a car or any other household item, was advertised, but it did not appeal to you in any way. Why do you think that is? Why is it that some products that are advertised gain our attention while others do not?
Imagine that you are walking into a clothing store and realize that you don’t like the selection they have. You soon realize that the shop has very little foot traffic and even the people who walk into the store leave in a short period. Why do you think is the reason for this situation in this store?
You may have walked by a store advertising a sale, but no one seems to bother. How do we explain such a situation?
In the above two examples, you can see a failure on the part of the advertisement and the store to make a connection with the client (yourself), and you rightly respond with indifference. Why did you react in that way? Now, remember the time the exact opposite happened. What was different?
The reason you react positively to the advertisement is that the advertiser or the business had something that you liked or wanted. It was as if they thought about what you will enjoy and how you will expect it and presented it to you just the way you like it. The effort they made you moved you and helped you see yourself using the product they were offering and that made you purchase the product.
Now, let’s bring that to your leadership. When you are looking to achieve a greater level of success, you need others to pull you there. Let’s say you have a vision that you want to implement with others’ help; how do you get others to join you on this journey? How could you convince others that together you could make a difference in your community?
The Master Leader
Let’s look at what Jesus did to get others to follow Him. Jesus told his disciple to follow Him, and they immediately did; Peter and his brother left their business and followed Him immediately. How was Jesus able to get the disciples and many others to follow Him?
Jesus showed initiative
Jesus, on many occasions, started the conversation. Take, for instance, the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus could have ignored her as most men during that time would have done but not Jesus. He strikes up a conversation using the current situation, asking her for a drink of water.
Jesus does this on other occasions as well. Take, for instance, Zacchaeus; others would have ignored a man on a tree. There were so many people; who would blame Him? Jesus walks right up to Zacchaeus and starts a conversation.
As you think about leadership, consider the example that Jesus has set. On occasions, you may have people come to you, but you need to go and meet others. Meet all kinds of people, ones with influence and ones without as you don’t know how things will turn out. The Samaritan woman introduced Jesus to the whole village, but when Jesus started the conversation, she is introduced as a social outcast whose influence is next to zero.
Jesus responded to others initiative
When other people approached Jesus, He took the time to listen to them and understand them. He did not dismiss their needs, nor did he push his ideas onto them. Jesus spent his time caring for others’ needs, and in that process, the people who came to Him got to know Him and became His followers.
Jesus had a flexible plan
Putting yourself in others’ shoes does not always come neatly packaged. It is bound to get messy and to be filled with delays. Each appointment is not going to be well-timed and executed in a perfect office condition. Instead, the meetings may happen in unexpected places and possibly in less than ideal conditions. More importantly, your appointment may be hijacked by a more pressing issue, and you are there just as a witness to the whole thing.
A woman accused of adultery was brought to Jesus by the scribes. The introduction was by a third party and not a typical type of meeting that you and I will plan. Jesus was flexible no matter how the situation presented itself. Jesus took His time to deal with the situation. He did not excuse Himself, saying, “I don’t have time for this,” nor was He quick to judge and move on to more pressing concerns. Instead, Jesus waited until all the accusers have left and spoke without condemnation and condescension to that woman. Jesus rejected the sinful action but not the human being involved in the act. He put Himself in her shoes and recognized the shame and guilt that the woman experienced.
Likewise, you need to expect the unexpected and be patient when things don’t look the way they should or the way you had planned. Be in the moment and respond to the need of the person before you.
Jesus met them where they are
Returning to Zacchaeus’s meeting with Jesus, we see that He went to his house and took part in a meal with him. Jesus was willing to meet people where they no matter their social standing or their economic background. It did not matter to Jesus who they were or what they did or had done; Jesus was in the moment looking to meet people in their current condition and cared for their needs.
Jesus did not say anything to Zacchaeus other than His intention to go to his house. The kindness and the acceptance that Jesus showed brought about the change in Zacchaeus that no amount of words would have accomplished.
You will have more success when you meet people where they are and lead them to where they need to go than requiring people to come to where you are.
Jesus established common ground
Questions are the method that Jesus preferred while communicating with others. Questions help you learn more information and listen instead of arriving at a conclusion based on the appearance of a situation.
Jesus asked the woman caught in adultery two questions and made one statement. Read John 8:10,11. It is a guide to how our conversations should be two-thirds questions and one-thirds our assessments or opinions. After the questions, Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Jesus sympathizes with the state of the woman but not her sin.
You can find common ground even if you disagree with the actions of an individual. There is no need to condemn an individual because our values don’t match or do not measure up with the other person. Finding common ground is about looking at the person and their potential and not defining them by their actions.
Jesus demonstrates the perfect example of how to put yourself in others’ shoes to lead. Jesus took the initiative to meet people and responded to the initiative that others had taken. He allowed room for a plan to take shape as one cannot predict the nature of events when we move to meet people where they are and work to establish common ground.
These five things will help you put yourself in others’ shoes and understand them before expecting them to follow you to accomplish your vision for change.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams